Varitek good to the finish

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- As Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek entered the visitors’ clubhouse following the team’s 1-0 victory in 16 innings over the Tampa Bay Rays early Monday morning, Red Sox staffer Rob Leary was standing at the door to greet him.

“Outstanding job,” Leary, a former catcher, told Varitek.

Varitek, 39, played the entire game, and it was obvious he was sore afterward. In fact, he always sits in a chair when talking with the media after a game, but that wasn’t happening this time.

“I’m just not going to sit down,” he said with a smile. “I’m scared to sit down.”

“We might have to carry him on the plane,” manager Terry Francona said. “He’s going to feel this one.”

This game featured just about everything. It featured outstanding pitching performances by both teams. Each club made outstanding defensive plays time and again. When it was over, Varitek limped off the field after receiving a total of 210 pitches thrown by Red Sox pitchers.

“I feel like a spring chicken,” he said with a big smile.

While Varitek was icing his entire body in the training room, fellow Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia stood at his locker with a few ice packs on even though he did not play. He was amazed by his partner’s ability to catch all 16 innings.

“To be able to still block the ball at the end of the game, and even for him to go to the plate [in the 16th inning] and hit, you could tell his legs were done," Saltalamacchia said. "It just goes to show you how good of shape he keeps himself in. He wanted to stay in the game and didn’t want to come out.”

Francona was thinking about replacing Varitek in the top of the 16th. If Josh Reddick hadn’t drawn a walk to lead off the inning, Francona said he was planning on pinch-hitting for Varitek. But Reddick reached and Varitek dropped down a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt to move Reddick into scoring position. Reddick later scored the winning run on Dustin Pedroia’s single.

“I hate to throw him under the bus because he’s in such good shape, but a guy his age doing what he does for 16 innings ...,” Red Sox starter Josh Beckett said. “He’s back there throwing down the right fingers. He’s awesome. He really is.”

Varitek was the last player to leave the clubhouse at close to 3 a.m., as the team traveled to Baltimore.

“I’m not playing tomorrow,” he said with a smile.